Monday, October 9, 2023

LE MANS: Triple Crown Winners, Part 5

Betcha Y’all are saying Hallelujah! We’ve finally crossed the Finish line on this lumbering endurance story multiple 24 Hours round Ye clock later!


Yeah, if you’re still reading this five part No Fenders story? Which I definitely appreciate Y’all doing so! Especially since if Yuhs cannot tell, I’m runnin’ outta Steam.


Thus it seems overly Apropos that we’ve begun with a German and we end with another two Germans. As Germany and the United States ties with three drivers apiece. Followed by two Bloody Brit’s and Uno Italian’s…


Marco Werner

Birthplace: Dortmund, Germany

DOB: April 27, 1966, Age: 57

Wins: Daytona1995; Sebring, (3) 2003, 2005, 2007 and Le Mans, (3) 2005-07


Marco Werner is another Sports Car driver I tend to remember nothing about, albeit His name sounded vaguely familiar and I should have remembered Him for racing in the American Le Mans Series for the All conquering Audi’s.


Reportedly Werner finished runner-up in the Opel Euroseries and German Formula 3 Championships behind somebody named tom Kristensen…


Unable to graduate to thee Pinnacle ‘O Motorsports, ergo Formula 1, Werner focused upon Sports Car racing instead.


After toiling in Porsche Supercup, Marco scored His first major endurance race event upon winning the 1995 Rolex 24 driving a Kremer Porsche 962.


Werner then won the first of His eventual three 12 Hours of Sebring victories in ’03. Dovetailing His latter two Sebring W’s while completing a rare Hat trick at Circuit de la Sarthe. Winning the prestigious 24 Heurs du Mans between 2005-07 for Audi. With Sebring being part of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) which ran a similar rules package to the ACO, governing body of Le Mans.


As Werner’s first victory at Le Mans alongside JJ Letho, claiming His second and final Le Mans win. Presumably were overshadowed by co-driver Tom Kristensen claiming His sixth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and seventh overall, surpassing Jacky Ickx’s previous record…


With Audi primarily racing in ALMS and Le Mans, albeit Audi’s dominant R8 LMP1 chassis did contest the Le Mans Endurance Series. Werner’s winning Daytona was rare for drivers of this era, since the 24 Hours of Daytona was under the auspices of first the United States Road Racing Championship. (USRRC) And then the rival Grand American Road Racing Championship, later becoming the Rolex Sports Car Series sanctioning bodies. Better know  simply as Grand Am between 1998-2013.


Timo Bernhart

Birthplace: Homburg, West Germany

DOB: February 24, 1981, Age: 42

Wins: Daytona 2003; Sebring 2008 and Le Mans, (2) 2010, 2017


What stands out to me about Timo Bernhard, our youngest and most current Triple Crown winner is His Porsche RS Spyder links.


As I fondly recall Him being part of El Capitano’, nee Roger Penske’s Werks’ AMLS LMP2 Porsche RS Spyder team between 2006-08. As this was one of the tteams I rooted for, since I quickly tired of Audi winning everything!


Having seen the winning Porsche RS Spyder multiple times at the Penske Racing Museum in Scottsdale, AZ. Although I don’t recall it being on display during my most recent visit to The Valley of the Sun.


As Bernard won the ’08 12 Hours of Sebring as alongside fellow  Factory Porsche drivers Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard, but I’m getting ahead of myself.


Like most current day racing drivers, Timo cut His teeth in Go Karts, before making His single seater debut in 1998 in Formula Ford. The following year He finished third overall in the German Formula ford Championship before moving onto Sports Cars.


Bernhard raced in Porsche Supercup and made His ALMS debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2001, finishing second in the GT Clas for alex Job Racing.


In 2002 He claimed His first GT Class victory at Le Mans driving for Kevin Buckler’s The Racer’s Group in a Porsche 911 GT3-RS.


The following year, Buckler and Company surprised the racing world by winning the 24 Hours of Daytona outright in the aforementioned Porsche 911 GT3-RS racecar. As this was the debut season for the Grand Am’s Daytona Prototypes (DP) class, leaving the door open for the ultra reliable Porsche 911 to claim victory.


Paired with Jorg Bergmeister, timo and Jorg won their class at the season ending Petit Le Mans. And then the duo romped to six wins in nine races to win the 2004 ALMS GT Class, which included victories at Sebring and Petit Le mans.


After His three year stint at Penske ended, when the team’s contract expired and Penske wound down it’s ALMS programme. Bernard and Dumas joined the Joest racing team, better known as Audi Sport Team Joest. With Bernhard, Dumas and Mike Rocky’ Rockenfeller winning the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans aboard an Audi R15 TDI Plus.


Arse-sumedly Timo became part of Porsche’s return to top flight LMP1 prototype racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship between 2015-2017. Driving one of the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s to it’s third and final victory at Le Mans, in what became a survival of the fittest in the 919 Hybrid’s final outing at Circuit de la Sarthe.


Coming from behind, at the 20 Hours mark, Bernard’s No. 2 Porsche was fifth overall, before first Bernard unlapped the entry back onto the lead lap and then took the lead with one hour remaining! As Bernard and co-drivers Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley won the 2017 24 Heurs du Mans, giving Porsche it’s 19th and most current overall victory at Le Mans.